Lawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill largely applauded the Trump administration’s plan to ban all nontobacco flavors of e-cigarettes, with some saying the move is long overdue.

On Wednesday, top administration health officials said they are finalizing a ban on all flavors of e-cigarettes in response to a massive spike in underage vaping. 

“We can’t have our youth be so affected,” President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE said. “People are dying with vaping, so we’re looking at it very closely.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Members from both parties have been turning up the heat on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), calling for flavor bans, marketing restrictions and even a complete recall of all e-cigarettes.

That congressional pressure stemmed from statistics showing youth vaping has skyrocketed in the past year, driven largely by teenagers becoming drawn to sweet and fruit-flavored e-cigarette pods easily accessible in stores.

Federal figures show a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students in just one year. The FDA, which has struggled to keep up on the regulatory front, has called the rise an “epidemic.”

Most lawmakers applauded Trump’s move, saying it was further proof that the e-cigarette market needs more federal oversight.

“With an e-cigarette epidemic in our schools, this action is long overdue but welcome,” said Illinois Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinA national interest rate cap would harm consumers in the name of consumers Senate committee approves 0 million for state election security efforts GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi MORE, whose state recently reported a vaping-related death.

Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, has been one of the top critics of what he said was the FDA’s inaction on e-cigarettes.

Last week, he wrote a scathing letter to the agency, threatening to call for the resignation of acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless if no concrete actions were taken within 10 days.

In a floor speech shortly after Wednesday’s announcement from the administration, Durbin praised the effort.

“We are making it clear in the United States of America that we know that vaping targets kids,” Durbin said. “I salute the administration for its leadership.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The move to ban flavors comes as at least 450 cases of a mysterious respiratory condition have been reported across 33 states. The severity of the cases vary, but six people have died.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said anyone who uses a vaping product should consider stopping while public health officials investigate.

Results from the CDC’s 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey have not yet been made public, but according to the Department of Health and Human Services, preliminary data shows that more than a quarter of high school students are current e-cigarette users in 2019 and the overwhelming majority of youth e-cigarette users cited the use of popular fruit and menthol or mint flavors.

Trump made the announcement in an Oval Office meeting, flanked by first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMelania Trump marks reopening of Washington Monument, takes ride to top Melania Trump to ring stock exchange opening bell on Monday On The Money: Fed delivers second rate cut to fend off global risks | Trump says Fed has 'no guts' | House gets deal on continuing resolution | GM faces bipartisan backlash amid strike MORE, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Sharpless. The event was not previously announced.

The FDA is working on releasing final guidance to implement the ban, but Azar said it will take several weeks.

He said that after a 30-day effective date, all flavored e-cigarettes would be removed from the market, pending FDA approval. Manufacturers of tobacco flavors would have to file for approval by May 2020, Azar said.

“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Azar said in a statement.

The vaping industry was quick to push back.

“Flavored vaping products are one of the most effective smoking cessation tools on the market,” the Vapor Technology Association said in a statement.

“There has been no indication that industry standard nicotine-containing vapor products are to blame for recent cases of lung illness. In fact, FDA investigators found that cannabis or THC products were likely the cause.”

Most e-cigarette brands sold in the U.S. are legal, but none of them have been subject to FDA review, leaving a regulatory gray area as more and more products flood the market.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices MORE (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he was not given a heads-up about the White House announcement on Wednesday, but offered his support for the administration’s actions.

Grassley said that while he wants to review the FDA guidance when it’s released, he’s glad the administration is taking the youth vaping epidemic seriously.

“Vaping causes deaths and serious illness,” he said. “I’m of the opinion something has to be done.”

But not all GOP senators cheered the administration’s announcement.

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes Trump to hold campaign rally in North Carolina day before special House election Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post MORE (R-N.C.) said federal officials should work harder to ensure underage kids don’t have access to e-cigarettes, rather than banning them.

And Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump administration floats background check proposal to Senate GOP Republicans wary of US action on Iran Democratic senator warns O'Rourke AR-15 pledge could haunt party for years MORE (R-Wis.) said that while “we don’t want children to be using and getting addicted to any substance,” vaping products should remain available to people who need to use them to stay off traditional cigarettes.

“I have heard from so many people that vaping has saved their lives,” he said. “We need to keep that in mind.”